Monumental Monolith: Driving the BMW G70 i7 xDrive60i

Carved, cast, or excavated from a single piece of material, the Monolithic design ethos is a purposeful one, born of strength, power, presence, and solidity. Eschewing delicate lines for sharp chiselled edges, soft curvatures for strong bold surfaces, and unnecessary visuals for a clean minimalist visage. Whilst BMW’s current design philosophy isn’t debuting on their latest seventh-generation of the 7, it is on the Bavarian marque’s latest flagship where this visual language has found its most prominent voice.

It is an unapologetically bold design, with a controversially large interpretation of BMW’s kidney grille taking center stage, flanked by redesigned headlights separated into two distinct sections. The top half, adorned with Swarovski crystals plays with projected beams, shimmering swathes of light to reflect, refract and dazzle as you walk closer to the car. Whilst the lower functional half are set deep into the front apron, visually blending into the dark side vents until called into action.

Alongside, the new 7’s Monolithic architectural form comes into full play with virtually flush-fitted side windows and a strong shoulder line that pulls from front to back, tensioning the body’s taut clean surfaces as if tightly wrapping upon itself, held together towards the rear with a pair of slim taillights finishing off the minimalist aesthetic.

While it is a full 130mm longer, 48 mm wider, and 51 mm taller than the outgoing long wheelbase predecessor, the newer car’s stronger outlook gives it a visual presence that surpasses not just the cars that came before, but also of rivals sitting within the segment. For those who crave even further distinctiveness, a two-tone paint finish can be specced to heighten the G70’s visual aplomb, one we imagine can only be surpassed only by its distant (but not too distant) Rolls Royce Ghost cousins.

Swing open the (12 ultrasound sensor protected) automatic doors and inside, this latest 7 has the most opulent and most comfortable interior ever crafted onto a series production BMW, with sublime materials lining each and every surface, styled in the same clean approach we’ve seen on the exterior with a dramatic crystalline surfaced interaction bar that flows across the entire width of the dashboard, extending into the front doors.

Backlit in a myriad of customizable colours, this visually arresting interaction bar not only reflects the 7’s Monolithic “hewn from a single piece of rock” design approach but also functions as a touch-sensitive control panel.

Within the plush wider-than-before Merino-leather seats up front on our i7 are Active front seat ventilation systems that can be optioned out with a massage function, though at its price point, we’d really rather they be available as standard.

For all the creature comforts appointed for the driver and front passenger, it is in the rear cabin where the real pampering begins with reclining seats (up to a segment benchmarking 42.5°) adjusted from the digital touch-control panels integrated into the door trim, adjustable pillows, and significantly increased headroom to cosset anyone willing to embark on journeys in the back. For those wondering, the optional 31.3-inch 8K theatre screen will only be making its local appearance mid-2023, and being integrated with other functionalities of the interior, will not be something that can be retrofitted after taking delivery.

As befitting the latest 7, a technological tour-de-force resides beneath the luxuriously appointed materials and tactile surfaces with iDrive 8 now functioning as your very own personal assistant, allowing you to control almost every aspect of your driving experience with little need to take your hands off the wheel.

Whilst speech recognition controls have been implemented before numerous times, the latest software build has made this functionality much more intuitive. From changing driving modes (of which there are currently seven), climate settings and even raising and lowering individual window blinds, there is little need to use any of the physical touchpoints.

Speaking of which, each of these seven driving modes not only activates specific settings for the powertrain and chassis, but also alters the appearance of the readouts on the 14.9″ Curved Display, the interior lighting, and also the BMW Interaction Bar. On the i7, these driving modes also change the Hans Zimmer “Iconic sounds” soundtrack. Heard to great effect in “Expressive” mode with the soundtrack gaining in intensity and volume depending on just how deep you bury the throttle.

And gaining in intensity and volume is also something you would probably get used to with the optional Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound system that was fitted to our test car. With QuantumLogic Immersion 3D sound, Dynamic Equalization Control (DEC), 36 high-performance speakers, and a 32-channel amplifier pumping out 1,965 watts of pure sonic power, exceptional is an understatement when it comes to describing the sheer aural honey delivered into our ears. And if that wasn’t enough, bass shakers have been embedded into the backrest for extra “kick”.

Should you prefer to get your “kicks” from powering through tarmac instead of Spotify, the i7 xDrive60i’s 544 electrified horses and 745Nm of instantaneous torques on tap allows for 100km/h in 4.7 seconds with little let up into license-losing velocities. Delivering up progress in a 2,640 kg limousine that shall we say, is “sufficiently rapid”.

That said, throughout my weekend with the i7, I instead found myself driving at what many would consider to be rather “uneventful” speeds, the i7”s plush cabin, amazing ride (no doubt assisted by its “dual-axle individually controlled adaptive air-suspension” setup), smooth electric powertrain (625km range claimed, 580km range achieved), and superlative sound system just made me want to savour each moment of my journey that much longer.

Whilst it might not be intentional, the new 7’s Monolithic approach also applies to its chassis rigidity, improved upon the last generation, the new 7 feels very solid on the move as it effortlessly pounds uneven road surfaces into submission and soaks up everything else.

And whilst you might be forgiven for thinking that such a behemoth of a BMW would be a handful around tight corners and high-speed bends, the opposite is very much true with its “Integral Active Steering”, BMW-speak for 4-wheel-steering. Allowing the rear wheels to turn either into or against the direction of travel depending on road speed. Allowing for rather surprising manoeuvrability in our tight local parking complexes.

Should the need arise, BMW’s latest Reversing Assistant can now store steering movements over distances of up to 200 meters and play them back in reverse.

But of course, this is a BMW, so one should always do what one does with a BMW, hit “Sport mode”, mash the throttle into the carpet, and start hunting some corners. As one should indeed.

But, I’ll have to admit, I did none of that. While I did admittedly indulge in an intense spurt or two, the majority of my time spent in the i7 was one spent revelling in its utter brilliance of transforming daily drives into a series of delightfully relaxing journeys. One where just the process of getting in, resting on the lounge-like chair, and having the door shut by a digital assistant was enough to take me away from the noise and stresses of the outside world.

The new i7 has monumental expectations to meet, but it is a monumental car that I’m now sad to say, only a select few will be able to experience.

What do we love? The drive, the tech, the sheer presence, and the SGD$30,000 optional B&W diamond surround speakers.

What are we not too sure about? The polarising front grille, slight wind buffetting from the side mirrors at speed, a strange squeak from our driver’s seat.

What can be improved? Besides the price tag, soundproofing could be a tad better (perhaps with double-glazed glass) and on an SGD$640,000+ flagship, more of the “optional” extras should really come as standard.

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